With the Phoenix Suns and Eric Bledsoe at odds over contract talks, it appears that another talented player with join the 2015 free agent pool. The class already includes Marc Gasol, Rajon Rondo, and DeAndre Jordan. ESPN’s Chris Broussard has reported that Bledsoe is leaning towards accepting the Suns’ qualifying offer:
— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) August 5, 2014
Bledsoe would look to take a one-year deal worth $3.7 million, far less than the the four-year, $48 million offer originally set on the table. Accepting this year’s deal will allow Bledsoe to become an unrestricted free agent next year. It seems as if Bledsoe’s camp is seeking close to a max deal around $80 million. Given his insane athleticism and defensive versatility, Bledsoe would be the ideal candidate for a lucrative contract, but durability is a concern.
The news on Eric Bledsoe is great for a team like the Los Angeles Lakers. Having been linked to Bledsoe this summer, the Lakers have the chance to offer him the contract that he is seeking (although they can’t offer a five-year deal like the Suns). Next season, they will have only four players under contract (Kobe Bryant, Nick Young, Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson). With a possible increase of cap room around $80 million, the Lakers should have around $20 million in cap space, enough for a max deal.
Adding Bledsoe, 25, injects youth into the Lakers and provides another piece of their foundation. He would arguably be the best point guard they’ve acquired since Magic Johnson. Last season, Bledsoe put up 17.7 points, 5.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game. Defensively, he uses strength and a freakish wingspan to hawk opposing point guards. The Lakers would benefit greatly from having a defensive-minded perimeter player alongside Kobe Bryant in what might be his final season.
On the offensive end, Bledsoe is a great finisher, even at only 6’1″. He can get up with some of the best athletes in the NBA, a rare ablility for a point guard of his stature. Dunks, acrobatic lay-ins, and absorbing contact at the rim are some of the tools in Bledsoe’s arsenal.
In four seasons, Bledsoe also has played in 17 playoff games, all during his time with the Los Angeles Clippers. He shared backcourt duties with Chris Paul at times, quite similar to his role with the Suns alongisde Goran Dragic.
Last season, Bledsoe went down with a meniscus injury that limited him to 43 games. He was able to return from the injury, but concerns still linger. If the Lakers see a healthy Bledsoe this season, they definitely should make him next year’s priority. Adding him alongisde lottery pick Julius Randle could solidify their future, as they will have more cap space in the following year.
If all goes as planned, the Lakers rebuild could be a smoother transition than expected. Laker Nation is waiting to get back into the competitive ranks, and what better way to gain traction than signing a prospect like Eric Bledsoe?